In February, I wrote a column about a house in Adams Morgan whose uniqueness goes well beyond the blackface-laden wallpaper that spans its first and second floors. The residents of 1919 Calvert St. NW—-a motley crew if ever there was one—-are trying to buy the house and make it what by all accounts would be the city’s first tenant-owned rooming house. Back then, I wrote that the tenants are running up against a May 12 deadline to secure financing and match an offer for the house, a tough proposition for a group of low-income people in an unusual situation and with little in the way of collateral.
So how have things progressed since then? Pretty well, it turns out. According to John Mangin, a lawyer with Georgetown University’s Harrison Institute for Housing and Community Development who’s been helping the tenants, they cleared the first big hurdle shortly after my piece came out, securing $15,000 in predevelopment funding from the nonprofit City First Homes. That brings them one step closer to their goal of a low-interest loan from the Department of Housing and Community Development to buy and rehabilitate the crumbling building.
DHCD requires certain studies to process the loan application, which the predevelopment funding enabled them to complete. One of these, the capital needs assessment, showed that the rehabilitation costs were in line with the estimates from the tenants’ contractor, according to Mangin. Another, the market study, found that 1919 Calvert was the only house at its price point for miles around, and that the next-cheapest home in Adams Morgan/Woodley Park/Cleveland Park was twice as expensive, says Mangin—-a boost to the idea that preserving the building as a rooming house is necessary from the perspective of affordable housing in the neighborhood.
Mangin says the tenants and their allies were able to persuade the owner to extend the May 12 deadline by 90 days, with cooperation from Chick Row Ventures, the company that made the offer for the house and whose founder says his aim is to keep the tenants in the building.
So far, so good, then, for the tenants of 1919 Calvert, and for the cause of affordable housing in Adams Morgan. I’ll report back with any updates.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery